European shares fell on Thursday after negative growth forecasts for the euro zone and poor results from some of the region's lenders reignited concern Europe was becoming trapped in a spiral of economic shrinkage and debt.

The euro zone economy is expected to contract by 0.3 percent, versus previous expectations for a 0.5 rise, EU data showed, pointing to a gloomy picture for corporate earnings and debt-laden governments trying to reduce their deficits.

Auto stocks <.SXAP>, which are heavily exposed to domestic demand, were the worst performers, shedding 1.8 percent, although the sector was still up 30 percent year to date.

It gave people a very easy reason to sell: 'I made my money, thank you very much', said Erich Hauser, analyst at Credit Suisse.

Banks <.SX7P> fell 0.7 percent, with Commerzbank and Credit Agricole down 6.3 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively, after recording hefty losses on their holdings of Greek debt and warning about tough market conditions ahead.

The FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top European shares provisionally closed 0.2 percent lower at 1,075.13 points.

(Reporting By Francesco Canepa)